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Building Appreciation for the Environment with the Next Generation

2010 July 15

Every year, the Mid-Atlantic Water Protection Division does a few Earth Day presentations at local schools. We have always felt that it’s important to educate young people about protecting the environment.

In certain ways, educating the next generation is one of the most important parts of EPA’s entire mission. This year, we went to a few schools including Julia R. Masterman at 17th & Spring Garden Streets in Philadelphia. Masterman is a public magnet school that includes both a middle school and a high school with young enthusiastic teachers, who continually use their science curriculum to talk about environmental issues.

Sometimes a short presentation on the class’s Smartboard about the history of EPA is offered, including old photos of the Cuyahoga River fire which happened way back in 1969. Or we talk about the first Earth Day in 1970, and how it led to the formation of the EPA. Other times, we change speeds a bit and do a simple chemistry experiment using red cabbage juice as a pH indicator. pH is a measure of acidity or alkalinity and changes in pH can also affect the aquatic life in a stream.

For an experiment about pH, we use red cabbage juice because it changes colors quite dramatically when mixed with baking soda, vinegar or even tap water. Purple, dark green and light blue…even a bright yellow can easily be created with the right substance. Middle schoolers love looking at the different colors, and some are inspired them to ask us a few questions about the Schuylkill River or other water bodies in the Mid-Atlantic Region. Read about successful restoration of pH-impaired streams in the Mid-Atlantic states of Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

What are some of the lessons you’ve shared with young people about protecting the health of our streams and rivers? The future of our environment is in their hands.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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4 Responses leave one →
  1. July 19, 2010

    I’m glad you enjoyed the blog entry about environmental education. It’s the first time I ever posted something on a blog. One thing that I’ve done lots of over the last 20-30 years is environmental ed presentations, and I’ve always been impressed with how much young child understand and care about the environment. I was recently in a kindergarten class at a public school here in Philadelphia for a career day event & had an interesting discussion about the BP oil spill & what would happen if the spill got hit by a passing hurricane. They understand things like that way better than adults do. So never underestimate what children will understand & take with them when you make a presentation about environmental issues.

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  2. Richard Poor permalink
    August 20, 2010

    Pollution from abandoned mine waste continues unabated around the greater Pittsburgh area. Some locals consider it a worthy tribute to the great age of industrial development. They may cry over family cancer victims, birth defects and other ill effects but they still do not “connect the dots”.

    If the EPA cannot stop the pollution, how about more education at least?
    Every hard rain, thousands of gallons of raw sewage go into the watershed. Ohio does not seem to care, they just spew more coal based micro-particulates into the air to blow into PA. And it seems the EPA just looks the other way.

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  3. September 7, 2010

    I live in the UK and here of course we have Earth day too. My two older children are much more aware of the problems with pollution than I thought. The younger generation are being introduced to the concept of caretaking the planet and that can only be a good thing for everyone. The subjects of acid/alkaline levels, air quality and the levels of micro organisms are very important for the continuity of our planet and getting that concept across early in life may be the salvation of animal (and human) life. As long as it is done in a thought provoking and non alarmist way… they are children after all.

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  4. May 16, 2011

    Educating the young ones about keeping mother earth alive is really necessary as they are the only people that can take hold of our tomorrow. Nice move!

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